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Report: A third of MN patients account for 83 percent of medical care spending

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Chronic illnesses like asthma, high cholesterol, depression or heart disease account for a huge percentage of how much money Minnesotans spend on medical care every year.

That's according to a new report from the Minnesota Department of Health, which looked at 2012 data to figure out how prevalent ongoing health conditions are, and how much it costs to care for them.

Bottom line, they found 35.4 percent of Minnesotans had a chronic condition. Their care accounted for 83.1 percent of all medical spending that year, the report says.

That added up to $22.7 billion, according to a Department of Health news release.

"This report shows the significant financial toll chronic disease is taking on individuals, our communities and our state," Health Commissioner Dr. Ed Ehlinger said in the release.

How much it costs per person

The larger sum can then be broken down to a single person's cost.

On average, an insured Minnesotan without a chronic condition spent $1,600 on health in that year.

Someone dealing with a chronic illness spent, on average, $12,800 – nearly eight times as much.

It's the first time the state is able to place a dollar figure on the cost of these ongoing illnesses, the Department of Health says.

The most prevalent diseases

Here's a look at the 10 most-common chronic illnesses, along with how many Minnesotans they affect:

  • High blood pressure – 943,218
  • High cholesterol – 695,093
  • Asthma – 508,031
  • Diabetes - 287,918
  • Depression – 262,210
  • Congestive heart failure – 105,044
  • Ischemic heart disease – 96,920
  • Chronic kidney disease – 58,936
  • COPD – 54,259
  • Rheumatoid arthritis – 52,954

So, what to do?

MDH says in the report it's a "near certainty" these costs will keep rising.

And some people are paying more for treating the same condition based only on location. The news release says a patient with kidney failure in Houston County would spend an average of $24,690 for treatment – compared to $50,760 for someone in Stevens County.

But it's not just an industry issue. Outside factors – economic and social conditions, environmental and stress factors, biological and genetic factors – play a significant role in who gets a chronic illness.

Because of that, any effort directed toward combating such diseases (and the care costs associated with them) should address those aspects, in addition to changes targeted at the care industry, the department says.

That includes addressing "the fact that populations of color and American Indians enjoy fewer opportunities to be healthy."

"We cannot afford to treat our way out of this crisis," Ehlinger said. "We must more strongly focus on preventing chronic disease or delaying its progression by investing in healthier communities, public health and primary care."

This report is the first in a series meant to address chronic health issues in Minnesota.

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